The Situation: The All-Star break has come and gone, and we’ll start to see teams in contention begin to bring in reinforcements internally and externally. One of those teams is the White Sox. One of those players is Carson Fulmer. You can probably see where this is going, but just in case it didn’t smack you in the face, Fulmer is coming up to help the White Sox and their not-so-great bullpen.
Background: Fulmer was a potential top 100 pick coming out of All Saints Academy in Winter Haven, Florida, and the Red Sox made a run at signing him after taking him in the 15th round of the 2012 draft. His stock soared upon entering Vanderbilt, helping lead the Commodores to a College World Series title in 2014 and finishing second in his junior year. The White Sox took him eighth in the 2015 draft. He dominated hitters in High-A Winston-Salem upon signing, but he had his share of struggles this spring, as seen in his 4.76 ERA at Double-A Birmingham. He has given up just two runs his his last 20 innings, however, and after an impressive showing at the Futures Game this Sunday, the White Sox believe he’s ready to contribute to the big-league staff.
Scouting Report: We use the phrase “electric” to describe stuff a lot, but outside of a pitcher that requires an outlet, this is as close as it gets to being the real mccoy. Not only does his fastball get into the high 90s, it also has a swear-ton of movement, running away from left-handed hitters like a circle change at times.
If you sit on the heater you can be made to look quite the fool by Fulmer’s curveball; a pitch that he adds and subtracts velocity from while always showing impressive spin and depth. It’s not often a strike, but his arm speed is so impressive and the break is so late that he gets away with it (most of the time, and more on that later). The change isn’t anywhere near the level of the heater and curve, and better hitters might be able to pick up the offering. It does have some late fade, however, and it’s certainly a good enough pitch to allow him to start.
As good as that stuff is, the command leaves a lot to be desired. Fulmer has a lot of moving parts in his delivery, and there’s some effort to the delivery as well. That leads to him missing his spots—a lot—and falling behind in counts/issuing walks. When you add the effort/inconsistent mechanics to the fact that he’s only 6-feet tall and svelte of build, and there are both short and long-term concerns about his ability to throw enough strikes to start. The walks also have come in bunches, as he’s had six starts with four walks or more. It’s not impossible for him to start because the stuff is so good, but it’s an uphill battle, to be sure.
Immediate Big-League Future: Have you ever said something and then realized you didn’t really mean it until just now? I’ve written dozens of times that if player x throws strikes he’ll be successful, but I don’t think I’ve ever meant it til, well, now. When Fulmer gets ahead in the count, he’s not fair, and he can get left and right-handed hitters out with his top of the rotation stuff. When he doesn’t, it doesn’t matter how good that stuff is, you simply can’t get big-league hitters out when you’re consistently creating self-inflicted damage or behind in counts. Since Fulmer is coming out of the bullpen the command problems won’t be as blatant, but if he’s going to be trusted late in games, he’ll need to show at least passable control. The long-term upside is a no. 2 starter who will miss plenty of bats, the floor is reliever, and maybe not a high-leverage one if he keeps walking guys. It’ll be fun to see which version we get this summer. —Christopher Crawford
Fantasy Take: With Carlos Rodon on the shelf with a left wrist sprain, the highly touted 22-year-old right-hander will join the White Sox rotation on a temporary basis. As the Vanderbilt product showed with a perfect inning at the Futures Game in San Diego last weekend, he clearly possesses the raw stuff to succeed at the major-league level. Yet, he’s struggled to put it together consistently in the minor leagues this season. In 17 starts at Double-A Birmingham, Fulmer owns a 4.76 ERA with 90 strikeouts and 51 walks over 87 innings.
Fulmer’s talent and considerable strikeout upside is enough to warrant a small FAAB investment in deeper mixed leagues and AL-only formats, but given that he is bullpen bound and the inherent performance risks, he’s not a highly sought fantasy commodity right now. The future is bright for Fulmer, but he might not be ready to make a major fantasy impact in 2016. —George Bissell
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